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Prairie Fare: How to set SMART goals for the new year

Julie Garden-Robinson
NDSU Extension
Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

“If you don’t go back to work soon, I will gain 50 pounds,” my husband commented.

If he gains 50 pounds, I will gain 70. That’s just how weight gain works in our home.

I took some time off during the holidays, so that gave me quite a bit of time to prepare food. Evidently, my husband enjoyed eating the food. Maybe I prepared too much.

I roasted and steamed a lot of vegetables as part of our meals. I made broth-rich soup.

He was not eating as many calories as he thought. Vegetables are high in water and fiber and low in calories.

We are still fitting our clothes, so that is a good sign.

Ads for weight loss methods are coming at us from many angles in the new year. Despite the enticing promises from some of the ads, losing 30 pounds in 30 days is not the best approach.

According to published research, losing just 5% of body weight (if a person needs to lose weight) was considered optimum for health benefits.

In other words, if a person weighed 200 pounds, a 5% weight loss is 10 pounds.

Scientists studied people with an average weight of 238 pounds. The study participants ate a calorie-controlled balanced diet with a variety of foods. They participated in educational sessions.

After three months, the participants in the study decreased their abdominal fat, and their blood glucose and triglyceride (blood fat) levels decreased.

The weight loss reduced their risk for heart disease and diabetes.

As we look ahead to the upcoming year, do you have a goal to make a lifestyle change to maintain or improve your health?

Setting goals is an excellent way to approach changes in any aspect of our lives, from health to finances. Creating “SMART” goals is a good step. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based.

In thinking through the creation of a SMART goal, what would you like to accomplish? Write it down and place it somewhere you can see it.

How can you make that goal measurable? How will you determine if you are successful? For example, a 10-pound weight loss is a measurable goal.

Can you achieve this goal? Do you have the support or resources to reach the goal? For weight loss, consulting a registered dietitian or other professional with expertise in nutrition can make a major difference in long-term success.

Why is the goal relevant and important to you? Did your healthcare provider suggest that weight loss may be of benefit to your health?

Finally, set a time. If losing 10 pounds is a goal, remember that people who lose weight gradually (one-half to one pound a week) tend to be successful in the long run. If weight loss occurs too quickly, the weight might return just as quickly.

The National Weight Control Registry has followed people who lost weight successfully. The researchers reported that 98% of people who lost weight modified their food intake to reduce their calorie intake, and 94% increased their physical activity.

About 78% of the successful participants ate breakfast daily, 75% weighed themselves weekly and 62% watched less than 10 hours of TV per week.

If weight loss and/or nutritional improvement is a goal, try creating a SMART goal such as these inspired by the National Weight Control Registry.

  • “I will eat breakfast with at least three food groups (such as fruit, milk, protein such as eggs, and/or whole grain) every day.”
  • “I will take a 30-minute walk five or more times a week starting today.”

Many people shortchange themselves on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You can find your specific recommendations for a healthful diet along with ways to achieve changes at www.choosemyplate.gov. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food for more information about nutrition, food safety and health.

This recipe makes a delicious side dish with roasted pork loin, beef roast or any preferred protein.

Roasted Root Vegetables

  • 8 cups root vegetables cut in chunks (combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips or rutabagas)
  • 2 cups carrot chunks
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Seasonings of choice (dried basil or rosemary suggested)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse and cut vegetables into chunks. Place in a medium bowl and pour oil over the top. Add parmesan cheese and seasonings and mix well. Spread an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender. Check a few vegetables to see if they are tender.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 190 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and 105 milligrams of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.